Philippe de Vitry [Vitriaco, Vittriaco]


Theorist and composer. He attended the Sorbonne in Paris and was ordained a deacon; held prebends in Cambrai, Clermont, St. Quentin, and elsewhere, and was canon of Soissons and Archbishop of Brie. From 1346 to 1350 he was employed by Duke Jean of Normandy, remaining in his service when the duke became king in 1350. Pope Clement VI appointed him Bishop of Meaux in 1351.

Vitry was known in his lifetime as both a poet and a composer, although little poetry, and only a handful of motets, survive; a number of his early motets appear in the Roman de Fauvel.His fame rests primarily on his treatise Ars nova(ca. 1322-23), which established a new theory of mensural notation. In the treatise Vitry recognizes the existence of five note values (duplex longa,longa,brevis,semibrevis,and minima), codifies a system of binary as well as ternary mensuration at four levels (maximodus,modus,tempus,prolatio), and introduces four time signatures. He also discusses the use of red notes to signal both changes of mensural meaning and deviations from an original cantus firmus. The Ars novais transmitted in four manuscripts, which appear to represent Vitry's work as formulated by his disciples; only the last ten of its twenty-four chapters--those that address mensural rhythm and notation--are original.

A Partial Philippe de Vitry Discography  |  II. The Central Middle Ages | IID: The Ars Nova In France